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Bryant guides Lakers to NBA crown

Agence France-Presse

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LEBRON James and the Los Angeles Lakers savor the sweetness of their 17th NBA crown. NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/ AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ORLANDO (AFP) — The Los Angeles Lakers felt Kobe Bryant’s spirit as they finished a run to the NBA title on Sunday, nine months after Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash.

The Lakers completed a championship run dedicated to the late Lakers legend by defeating Miami, 106-93, to capture the NBA Finals four games to two in a quarantine bubble at Orlando, Florida.

“Kobe, I know he’s looking down on us super proud,” Lakers star forward Anthony Davis said.

“We miss him, and this is definitely for him.”

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in the 26 January crash in suburban Los Angeles, stunning the sports world to lose such a gifted talent at age 41.

“I think Kobe and Gianna have guided this team the entire year,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said.

“Kobe’s voice is always in my head, always, every day, every minute for us to be able to win this championship doesn’t take away the sting of the loss, but what it does is it helps us add to their legacy.”

“Kobe and Gianna’s legacy will last forever. It will impact lives around the world in positive ways, and this Lakers championship in 2020 is partly to build on that legacy and honor them. The moment couldn’t be any more special to do that for them.”

Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, posted a congratulations message on Instagram, saying: “Wish Kobe and Gigi were here to see this.”

The Lakers captured their first NBA title since 2010 when Bryant led them to the last of his five career crowns.

“There would be times in my hotel room here — when you’re in a bubble for 100 days, it’s tough — there would be times in the middle of the night, I would hear his voice: ‘Stay the course. Finish the task,’” Pelinka said.

“He said, ‘I’ll give you two, three years, you’ll fix this. You’ll get the Lakers back on top.’

Pelinka looked to the heavens and said, “I guess you were right, man. You gave me the energy to do it.”

Davis received encouragement from Bryant at games in the months before the tragedy.

“He would come to the game and just tell us, ‘This is y’all year. This is y’all year. Go out and take it,’” Davis said. “He had a lot of confidence in our team. He had a lot of confidence in our organization to go out there and win it this year.”

Outside the Lakers’ home arena, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, fans took to the streets chanting, “Kobe, Kobe,” despite being urged to celebrate at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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